Neighbours of a proposed $164 million solar farm at Bomen will voice their concerns at a public meeting on Monday night.
Developers Renew Estate will host the meeting at the North Wagga Hall from 5pm to 7.30pm and invited the public to view the environmental impact statement, ask questions and find out more about the massive project.
Eunony Valley Association president Bill Schulz said his group was concerned about possible glare and the impact on land values that the development might have and would be in attendance.
“I want to be absolutely crystal clear we’re not against renewable energy, but the challenge we’ve got is softening the visual impact of the solar farm,” Mr Schulz said.
“You’d need a vegetation plan to mitigate that – if you plant enough trees in the right pattern you might do it – but it takes 10 years to get a reasonable tree height. We question the visual impact, the noise impact, water runoff and the impact on land values.”
The Bomen development was just one of more than $750 million worth of solar projects slated for the region, with work underway on the state’s largest solar farm near Coleambally and Griffith’s solar farm already operational.
Documents submitted to the Department of Planning and Environment revealed Renew Estate’s plans featured 400,000 solar panels on 276 hectares at Bomen, which could generate up to 120 megawatts of electricity if approved.
But Mr Schulz said there should have been more consideration about the location of the solar farm.
“There should be national guidelines from the government about the distance these things should be from homes and screening the visual impact,” he said.
“Our view is they should be pushed away from main roads and houses, the reason why they want to put it there quite frankly is financial, being adjacent to a substation makes it easy to tap into. If they’re so beneficial the cost of running a line from the generation point to a substation or the grid is something that should be dealt with.”
However, the federal government’s recent National Energy Guarantee proposal meant there was an increased focus on renewable energy technologies and companies were rushing into the space, particularly in the Riverina.
The NEG aims to walk the line between reducing emissions, including more renewable energy generation while preparing the grid – and the poles and wires – for a rapidly changing energy network that is bringing in more solar, batteries, wind, and other future technologies.
According to Simon Grasby from Green Switch Australia, which planned to build a large solar farm at Gregadoo, good roads, good workers and plenty of sunshine made the Riverina attractive for development.
“If there is to be a number of solar parks built across the region it creates opportunities for existing businesses to help maintain them,” Mr Grasby said. “Everything from fencing contractors, landscape management to look after weeds and long grass, electricians to do maintenance work, these things are planned to last for 25-30 years and local people in the right place have the skills to do that work.”